20 Photoshop Tips for Architects

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Photoshop is the architects go to tool for image creation and editing, but for those just starting out or looking to further develop their skills and knowledge in the program, it can be difficult to know where to start and what to learn.

It's diverse and expansive platform attracts uses from all types of disciplines and professions, for architecture in particular, we believe there are a set of core skills and areas that every architect and architectural student should be efficient in.

…and so here we have generated a list of the various tips and methods of working that have helped us over the years, as both students and professionals to develop our skills within architecture and photoshop ...first up blend modes:

01 - Blend modes

Layer blend modes can be found within the layers tab, and offer a variety of excellent ways (when used with the opacity setting) to mix and “blend” layers together, creating different styles, tones and contrasts. Shift + or – will cycle through different layer Blend Modes, this can be a very useful method of experimenting with different styles.

02 - Save a temp file

Having a temporary or second file of your work (at least whilst your working on it) can be a life saver. Files can and will on occasion become corrupted and damaged, or you may simply need to refer back to an older version, so remember to make a copy.

03 - Naming layers

The naming of layers is an easy one to forget but one that can save a huge amount of time when trying to navigate through a large stack. So get used to naming and become more efficient.

04 - Use layer masks

Masks are a fundamental tool when working with a deconstructive workflow, as they allow you to edit specific areas of a layer without effecting its original properties. This offers a very flexible and varied editing process, that allows the original copy to be easily reverted back to at anytime.

05 - Make actions

If you find yourself carrying out repetitive tasks, then creating an action can save a huge amount of time. An action is essentially a recording of a process, it is recorded once, and then simply saved and played from the actions menu whenever the task is required.

06 - Burn and dodge tools

The burn and dodge tools offer an excellent and very quick method of adding depth and grit to architectural images, if used subtly with the correct opacity settings. Be sure to make a copy of the layer before applying. When painting with the Burn tool, you can hold down Alt to switch instantly to the Dodge tool.

07 - Use guides

When setting out your layers and text, use the guides tool to help align and organise there positions, there is nothing worse than an unevenly spaced document …especially in architecture!

08 - Short cuts

Learning the key shortcuts not only makes your workflow quicker and more efficient but in fact improves your user experience, and makes using Photoshop more enjoyable. We have a list of the most useful Photoshop shortcuts for architects here

09 - Use groups/folders

When working on large files, grouping layers within folders becomes crucial in helping with the navigation and organisation of your workspace. There’s nothing worse than trying to find a missing layer within an enormous unorganised stack. So group relevant layers together, and close the group to keep your navigation stack tidy and readable.

10 - Use adjustment layers

Adjustment layers (not layer adjustments!) provide a non-destructive workflow to editing your layers. This means that adjustments can be continuously altered and edited without directly affecting the original image or layer. Offering a flexible and variable workflow that can be masked to a singular selected area if required. Hold down alt and click in-between the adjustment and layer to separately apply it to only that particular layers.

11 - High pass filter

The high pass filter if used subtly with an 'overlay' blend mode, will help enhance the details of your image. Be sure to make a copy of your image to apply the filter to, so not to lose your original.

12 - Photoshop tutorials for architects 

To become efficient in photoshop will take time and practice, and a very good way to gain experience and the knowledge you require, is to learn by watching others. 

So take some time to sit down and watch the huge array of photoshop tutorials that are available on the web. For photoshop tips and tricks for architecture visualisation, start with “arqui9” (below), for architecture presentation tutorials look at "visualising architecture”, and for more general “how to” tutorials "creative bloq”.

13 - Smart Objects

Smart objects allow you to scale and transform an image without it losing its original quality. Before editing, right click on the image layer and select the smart object option.

14 - Extend your histories history

Not many people know that you can extend the amount of times you can 'undo' to a maximum of 1000. Go to Edit>Preferences>Performance to change the number, but beware that this will have an effect on performance, due to extra memory being used.

15 - Post production techniques 

Become an expert in (architectural) photoshop postproduction. Establishing a workflow for the final postproduction touches to your architectural visualisations becomes crucial when preparing for a deadline. So take the time to experiment and develop your skills away from any work pressures, and then when required, you’ll be a step in front.

16 - Buy the Adobe Photoshop CC Classroom Book

The Adobe Photoshop CC Classroom Book is Adobe's own best selling tutorial book, that offers a step by step guide and reference to using photoshop, and is updated annually to ensure that all the newest and updated features are always covered. Amazon link here

17 - View one layer

If you're working with multiple layers and you want to view one layer on its own, there's no need to hide all the others manually, simply hold down Alt and click the Eye icon of a layer to make every other layer invisible. Hold down Alt and click again to reveal them.

18 - Photoshop for architects courses

As mentioned there are many photoshop tutorials that are focused on architecture visualisation and presentation available all over the internet, but to take this a step further you may like to enrol onto an actual course either online or at a physical education facility. Whilst we can’t recommend every course local to our readers, we can recommended Lynda and Udemy. Finding a live webinar with a community of other learners where you can easily ask questions, can be extremely useful also. 

19 - Get a pen and tablet

A drawing tablet offers a level of flexibility and creativity that a standard mouse and keyboard just can’t do. The user experience is much closer to that of actually drawing or painting, and for most people provides a more precise and calculated level of feedback.There are plenty of good, entry-level tablets available, but if you want mid-range features that include multi-touch input, treat yourself to a Wacom Intuos 5.

20 - Rotate and flip your work

When working on a image, try temporarily rotating and flipping the page to view it from an alternative angle and perspective. You'll be able to notice new compositions and elements that you may have otherwise not seen, ...adding further depth to your images.

Lastly and when looking to purchase photoshop, if the full license is over your budget then Photoshop Elements is a great option to consider at a more obtainable price. 

We find that many potential users worry that the essentially stripped down version that Photoshop Elements offers, will be without all of the professional features the full licence has and therefore won’t be suitable. However we’ve used both, and for architectural presentations and imagery, it is a great substitute without a large financial commitment. 

Links to both Photoshop CC and Photoshop Elements on Amazon are below:

Adobe Photoshop CC

Adobe Photoshop elements

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